The Lion King (Live Action): Movie Review

I caught Disney’s The Lion King’s Live Action movie a bit late because I watched it with my four-year old nephew with SM Cinema’s Kids Watch Free promo. But lateness to the party doesn’t mean we enjoyed it any less. I’m glad to report that I was not at all disappointed with director Jon Favreau’s version no matter what early critics said about this reboot of the Disney classic.

Synopsis: Lion cub Simba, the son of King Mufasa, decides to leave the Pridelands after the death of his father when his evil uncle Scar convinces him he is responsible for the tragedy. Years later, the Pridelands turn into a barren wasteland under Scar’s rule and Simba must take a stand to reclaim his throne and restore the balance in the circle of life.

I get why a lot of critics felt like The Lion King lacked the magic of the original movie. After all, as a live action version, the CGI in the movie was rendered as a realistic depiction of actual animals a la National Geographic special. And because the setting was the wilderness, there is a monotony of colors in the live action version. Earth tones from the animals, as well as the backdrop created a singular aesthetic feel to the film unlike in the animated version where artists can use different levels of vibrancy for the same colors that can make images more appealing.

However, this is highly undertstandable for a live action movie with The Lion King’s setting. And I must give credit to the CGI team for this flawless rendition of actual jungle animals, from the looks to the movement. If they weren’t talking, this could have passed for a nature documentary. I also appreciated the fact that when the characters spoke, they did not appear comical but rather, natural. The attention for the most minute detail was one of the film’s main strengths in the design and animation and boy, this team deserves an award.

The Lion King Live Action actually did not mess with the original movie. It literally became a live action of the same scenes, same dialogue and music, only slightly modified to tone down on the comedy a teeny tiny bit. This was not a bad thing per se. Favreau understood the film’s strength and used it to the new version’s advantage.

What’s great about the live action version was that it understood its intention very well. It did not aim to surpass the original, but rather, it paid homage to it by continuing its legacy. By producing the live action version, Disney reignited the franchise and introduced The Lion King to a new generation of fans. As such, generations bond and connect through the movie and its a lovely feeling.

Personally, I was very emotional watching the iconic scenes in The Lion King while sneaking sideways glances at my nephew who was enraptured by the movie. Seeing him enjoy the film that I enjoyed when I was a kid and reliving these moments through this new version made the experience more meaningful. It was the same for fellow moviegoers. There were times I heard whispers as parents explained the characters to their kids and laughed out loud with the little ones at the familiar antics of Timon and Pumbaa.

Another plus for the movie was that since it was rendered realistically, grown ups can actually show their kids what animals actually look like. Witnessing their reaction to seeing an warthog or meerkat was precious.

Also, Disney did a stellar job in casting actors for the voice work. Because most worked on theater and comedy, the timing and the emotions were perfect. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, John Oliver, Seth Rogen, Beyonce Knowles and Billy Eichner were only some of the superstars who joined the cast and they definitely pulled their weight.

All in all, The Lion King Live Action was a pretty strong movie in its own right barring comparison from the animated original. It deserves credit for that. However, the real magic of the of the film lies with sharing this experience with your young ones and bonding over your common love for this classic story’s enduring message of love, family, friendship and destiny. And that, my friends is how you truly enjoy this movie.